EAST LANSING – Pressure? Heck no.
Despite having a huge target on its back all season, Flint Beecher elevated its game with each new challenge.
“We apply pressure. We don’t feel pressure,” said Bucs coach Mike Williams. “This is fun. If you’re going to be scared, you shouldn’t be playing.”
Beecher, the two-time defending state champion, continued its run by pulling away from Detroit Edison for a 76-68 win in Thursday’s Class C semifinal at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
The Bucs (22-5), winners of four of the past five Class C titles, will vie for their third consecutive title on Saturday against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (21-5) at 4:30 p.m.
“Our expectations are higher. We set the bar high,” Williams said. “We expect to have a shot at winning championships every year. We have a great group of kids. It’s been very special.”
Beecher is led by senior guard Malik Ellison, who finished Thursday’s game with 28 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. The Bucs used an 8-1 run in the fourth quarter to push its lead to 67-56 with 2:18 left.
“We played a lot of tough teams (this season), so we were built for these situational moments,” said Ellison, an Eastern Michigan commit. “We came in focused and ready, and we pulled it through.”
It was a tough ending for Edison (14-12), which won the program’s first regional title this season and advanced to its first semifinal. The Pioneers, who began a boys basketball program six years ago, also won a district title in 2015.
Senior guard Jamal Keesee had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Edison, and junior forward Deante Johnson added 17 points and nine rebounds.
“I wasn’t worried about us being scared, but our guys had to play mistake-free basketball,” Pioneers coach Brandon Neely said. “That’s when fundamentals become important. Beecher was not going to beat themselves.”
Edison held a 15-14 lead after the opening quarter, and trailed 29-27 at halftime. The third quarter went back and forth, but the Bucs created separation heading into the final period with a 49-42 advantage.
“I’ve been hearing about Edison for years now,” Williams said. “Coaches in Detroit speak very highly of their program, so I was anticipating playing them. Early in the game, we were trying to feel each other out, like boxers. In the third quarter, our kids forced them to make some mistakes and we were able to capitalize.”
Freshman guard Jalen Terry scored 15 and senior guard Jordan Roland added 10 points and seven rebounds for Beecher.
“I had goosebumps everywhere,” Ellison said of Thursday’s game. “It’s a different feeling every year because it’s a different team. Playing at the Breslin is never an understatement. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Edison was trying to match its girls basketball team, which won the Class C state title last weekend.
“It could have been too much pressure, but we embraced the challenge,” Neely said. “The girls set a precedent. We always work together and talk about basketball. It’s a great situation for our program.”
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 62, Manton 35: Junior forward Trenton Koole finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, leading the Chargers past Manton in Thursday’s other Class C semifinal.
Junior forward Carson Meulenberg had 10 points and six rebounds, and junior guard Tyler Cammenga added nine points and seven rebounds for Covenant Christian.
Junior guard Jayden Perry scored 13 and junior guard Hunter Ruell had eight points for Manton (21-5).